Volunteer spotlight: ISU students volunteer for “magical” day

By Catherine Wilson on June 25, 2015 in Blog

Six Iowa State University Natural Resource and Ecology Management (NREM) graduate students used their skills to help open up and restore a remnant prairie on a March day this spring on a Boone County woodland just 20 minutes from campus. This is the fifth time ISU’s NREM students have worked on the site.


Students from ISU’s Natural Resource and Ecology Management department and INHF staffers work with David Marlow to reclaim a hilltop on the Gardner Property in Boone County. (Gifford the dog was a big help, too.)

“What is interesting about this student group,” INHF Volunteer Coordinator Mary Runkel said, “is that even with students flowing through the program and graduating each year, the passion and knowledge never seems to leave because the leadership is handed down and new energy emerges.”

The Anna Gardner Woodland is an 80-acre mixture of oak savanna, woodland and native prairie located along the Des Moines River and nearly adjacent to the Saylorville Wildlife Management Area. The property was donated to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation in 2009 by J.H. Gardner in memory of his daughter, Anna Gardner, who died in 2006. An adjacent 60-acre conservation easement was donated to INHF by Anna's husband, David Marlow, in 2014.

Read more about David and Anna in the spring issue of Iowa Natural Heritage magazine.

Marlow not only led the work crew on a brisk, two-mile trek to reach the hilltop focus of the day, he also provided coffee, pastries and brownies for students and INHF staff members. “The day was magical,” Runkel said. “David's love of the land and stories about Anna made our day and our progress so meaningful.”

Restoring the remnant prairie is hard work that involves clearing undesirable trees and shrubs with chainsaws, loppers and sweat. As a reward, some of the hardy workers ventured on to visit the magnificent towering oak tree that graces the property and sports a hefty 13-foot 1.5-inch circumference.

Large Oak Tree on Gardner Piece (1)

Anna Gardner was a life-long learner who earned a bachelor's degree in biological and premedical illustration from Iowa State and an interdisciplinary master's degree in art, English and botany before co-authoring a book published in 2014 entitled Grasses in Your Pocket: A Guide to Prairie Grasses of the Upper Midwest.

NREM students participating this year: Brenna Towery, Amy Moorhouse, Emily Zimmerman, Louis Hilgemann, Christopher Anderson and Jennifer Swanson.

Learn more about INHF’s volunteer program and upcoming volunteer events.